When I was younger I used to be way more confident about how aligned my actions and thoughts were when it came to God, Jesus, me, and the world. It seems that it is frighteningly easy to adopt such a mindset (I know God’s will and agenda) in our fractured 21st century. Our thoughts and opinions spring up overnight from the shallowest of soil, soundbites, and news clip mulch allowing for mere tendrils of roots to support our conclusions. Such tendencies do have historically deep roots, burrowing all the way back to the first disciples.
Here’s one example (posted a while ago but perhaps worth repeating):
Cornelius was a Roman Centurion—a Gentile, not a Jew. He ate pork and never entered a synagogue. He was not one of “God’s chosen people.”
Despite that fact, there came a day when Cornelius received a word from God (who the Jews thought was “theirs”) instructing him to invite Simon Peter to his home. The next day just before men arrived at Peter’s door, Peter had a vision in broad daylight. It was a large sheet full of animals that he was commanded to kill for food. Peter protested and identified the animals as unclean according to Jewish law and tradition. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,” came the retort (Acts 10:15).
Then Peter, like Cornelius, received a word from God about an impending request from a Gentile for a visit, and he was instructed to accompany them. A day later, after a long journey by foot, Peter stood among Gentiles in the Centurion’s home—a radical action casting all tradition and prejudice aside in obedience to God. They proceeded to share their experiences of the same God. It was a revelation to Peter that cut through tradition, culture, mindsets, and deep prejudice.
In great humility, Peter’s opening sentence was, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism . . .” (Acts 10:34).
One of the most encouraging and attractive things about Peter is that we can relate so easily to him, precisely because his struggles are ours. Despite his many misunderstandings, Jesus never abandoned him or humiliated him in his struggle to make sense of the impossible. There were quite a few moments when Simon Peter muttered, “I now realize . . .” Perhaps it was these eureka moments that formed Peter’s deep understanding of God’s nature and love. It eventually led to him being able to hear and obey God’s heart for the Gentiles. He could not have been used there if he had not worked through all the other “moments,” such as:
- I now realize . . . this man called Jesus is not ordinary (after the miraculous catch of fish when they first met and Jesus called Simon to follow him).
- I now realize . . . that Jesus does miraculous healing (after witnessing Jesus heal his sick mother-in-law).
- I now realize . . . that Jesus is unpredictable, compassionate, and practical (after witnessing the feeding of the five thousand).
- I now realize . . . that Jesus honors me when I take risks and will be there when I sink (after stepping out of the boat and walking on water with him).
- I now realize . . . that Jesus lives in absolute peace and trust in his Father’s faithfulness (when the disciples were terrified of a storm and Jesus slept in the boat before calming the wild sea).
- I now realize . . . that Jesus’ prophetic words that I will be a “rock” are beyond what I believe about myself (after Jesus declared that Simon’s name would be Peter).
- I now realize . . . that I haven’t seen or understood anything yet (after standing on the Mount of Transfiguration with James, John, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in all his glory).
- I now realize . . . that my solutions, despite my passion, are not always how Jesus acts (after cutting off a Roman soldier’s ear with a sword in Gethsemane).
- I now realize . . . that I’m not as spiritual as I imagined (after falling asleep when Jesus asked for prayer in Gethsemane).
- I now realize . . . that I totally overestimate my strength and ability to follow Jesus (after Peter denied Jesus three times as he approached crucifixion).
- I now realize . . . that no matter how I fail, Jesus will forgive and never abandon me (after Jesus met him on the shores of Galilee and said, “Do you love me?”)
- I now realize . . . that I am totally dependent upon Jesus and his Spirit alive in me (after waiting in Jerusalem and being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost).
- I now realize . . . that God can use me just like I witnessed him using Jesus (after he and John healed the crippled man at the temple gate).
- I now realize . . . that God’s Spirit can flow through me with power, give me courage, and set me free to be the rock I never imagined three years ago (after Peter spoke and three thousand were baptized).
There were probably many times Peter was tempted to “unfollow Jesus,” and no doubt every one of the disciples shared this sentiment. Ironically, those were the very moments when God wanted to break through and enable Peter to realize something about Jesus, or himself, that would help him grow into a better version of himself.
Conflict is not when we have differing points of view; it is when we allow the expression of differences to sabotage relationships and to release judgment, blame, and name calling.
Let us embrace the moments of confusion, misunderstanding, even frustration and be open to what God has for us just beyond. Most often real transformation and growth takes place during life, not merely in our heads or by clicking “like” on Facebook. “I now realize . . .” must be on the lips of every disciple of Jesus. Following Jesus includes many moments of not understanding. Be encouraged; your next “I now realize” moment may be just around the corner (if you haven’t had a “I now realize moment” for years – that maybe is food for thought :-)).
The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
(From: 99 Musings of a Dogeared Pilgrim: Daily readings for encouragement along the way. To be published in April 2022)
Here’s an old song…. sometimes we need larger hands resting on our lives to bring about deep change…. like a potter with clay perhaps.